Sunday, May 29, 2005

Trauma, Healing and History

From Avigail Abarbanel´s website:

I believe that( ) Jewish Israelis will never be happy (even if there were no Palestinians left — God forbid) and that is because they have done nothing to heal their own trauma and are spending their entire life going around in circles and acting it out on others.........
.......Abusers hide the truth not only from others but also from themselves. They do so by telling themselves that they are the real victims. They wholeheartedly believe that because of their suffering they are justified in everything they inflict on their victims. They are often successful in eliciting sympathy from others and it is usually the victim that is left isolated....

Jewish people in Israel and in the diaspora feel traumatized, but it´s not only the atrocities and murders the Nazis committed against Jews, which make up this trauma.
The trauma goes back far longer, a trauma of thousands of years. There were progroms and Jewish communities have been over and over again driven out of the places were they had settled.
The Jewish narrative goes like this:
Ever so often gentiles get inflicted by some kind of insanity and start persecuting Jews. And the only thing Jewish people can do to prevent this kind of crazy persecution is to become stronger and more powerful than their gentile neighbours.
This is the reasoning behind Israel´s constantly growing military expenditure.
This is the reasoning behind the denial of Israel to give equal rights to Palestinians as to Jews and the denial of the right to return.

In these American court-movies you can sometimes hear from the prosecution, when the councill for the defendant in a murder trial asks his client under oath about his or her problematic relationship with the victim: "Objections! We are not here to put the victim on trial!"
In German court TV shows you never hear this kind of objection, and I really think it is a pretty stupid one. Of course, the court needs to hear what happens before the crime, what were the motive, what were the reasons. Only then judge and jury can decide, if it was premeditated murder out of greed or maybe manslaughter out of some other reasons. The deed is never justified, to be sure, but the circumstances should determine how high the sentence should be, and they can tell the court if the perpetrator can be rehabilitated one day or not and if the perpetrator is likely to commit a similar crime again.
So, if take this analogy to Palestine, then we can see, that Palestinians have been the victims from the day the Zionist project was conceived. You can read in Zionist lterature itself, how even the early Zionist showed disdain for the indigenious population of Palestine, you can read about mistreatment of Palestinian workers, of misappropiation of property, about the driving of peasants from land they had cultivated for many generations after it was bought from absentee owners and other examples of mistreatment. There were many instances of violence against Palestinian towns and villages already before the foundation of the state of Israel.
When Palestinians fought back, they had good reasons for it.
After the terrible atrocities of 1948, the reasons became even better, and still better after the occupation of the West-Banks and Gaza. And these are the reasons for Palestinian suicide bombings and other violent acts of resistance against an oppressive power.
Seeing the history of the conflict, it´s clear, who are the victims here.
And it´s just as clear, that the Palestinians did not cause the Jewish trauma.
Some victims, like abused children are innocent, and the reason for their victimization does not lie in them, but some place else.
But then, some former victims, like in this case the Jewish Israelis, become perpetrators who victimize others. Ms Abarbanel says, because they have not healed their trauma.
But how do you heal a trauma? As a professional therapist Ms Abarbanel has probably other answers to this than I as a lay person have.
I think a trauma only can heal, when you can overcome the fear that the traumatic event might happen again any time.
As a victim of abuse the worst feeling is the one of helplessness, of being unable to stop it. You try to find strategies to prevent further abuse and find safety. And you base those strategies on the information you have.
But when your information is false, your strategy will be wrong.
If you believe that the reasons for your victimization is the mental illness of your aggressor, it makes sense to contain this aggressor, because what else can you do against a mental illness.
But if there are other reasons like, if you have provoked the aggressor, it makes a lot more sense to stop the provocation.

In the case of the Jewish trauma it is necassary to put the victim on trial, for the victim´s sake.
Only if the patterns leading to progroms and other prosecutions historically are brought out into the open, the vicious circle can be broken, fear can be banned, hatred and the compulsion to senselessly beat around in retaliation on those, who never were responsible for the trauma, can be overcome.
Truth is important, so very important.
Truth can heal a trauma.